Plans underway for new student center

by Courtney Kirkland

Simpson has recently begun the first step in the long process of planning the college’s new student center.

“The steering committee has been busy looking at architect information, considering the needs of the campus and beginning to implement plans for the new student center,” said junior Cory George, student body president and member of the committee.

In addition to George, this committee also includes President R. Kevin LaGree; Ken Birkenholtz, vice president of business and finance; Bart Lane, director of the physical plant; Jim Thorius, vice president for student development; and George Milligan a member of the board guidelines and grounds committee.

The steering committee was scheduled to meet again Feb. 25 to limit their list of architects down to three or four firms.

Birkenholtz said that the main goal of the steering committee is to choose an architectural firm from the 12 firms they are considering. Birkenholtz said that once the committee does this, the college will enter into step two of the planning process.

During step two, a planning committee will be formed. Birkenholtz said that the planning committee will include each of the members of the steering committee with the addition of Rich Ramos, the assistant dean of students at Simpson, two faculty members and a staff member from food service.

Birkenholtz said that students will also be given the opportunity to serve on the planning committee. The students involved are still undetermined at this time.

Birkenholtz said that there has been a list of design considerations submitted for the new student center, yet there haven’t been any final decisions made as to what the inside of the building will include.

Ramos, who has been consulted regularly during the early phases of the planning process, said that he has heard many good ideas for the inside of the student center.

“We’ll be looking at the entire picture to determine what we need and don’t have in the current student center,” said Ramos. “We need bigger spaces that hold more people, maybe a small lecture hall for performances, or even a coffeehouse.”

George said that he hopes the new student center will serve as a central gathering point for the entire campus.

“The current student center is not a student-friendly building,” he said. “In order for the student community to thrive we need a new building where students can meet and socialize.”

Birkenholtz said that the college hopes to complete the schematic design phase for the new building in late 2003. The college should then be finished contemplating space considerations and layouts. The college should also have a feel for what the outside of the building might look like.

Birkenholtz said that the college hopes to break ground in mid 2004. He said that this, however, depends on whether the college is successful in raising funds to pay for the new building.

According to Dennis Hunt, vice president for college advancement, the college will be soliciting trustees, corporations, and foundations in the hopes of receiving donations.

Hunt said the college would like to secure a naming gift for the building that would amount to a donation for half of the total cost.

“This means we would have to receive a multimillion dollar gift from some [singular] entity or donor,” he said.

Birkenholtz and George both said that the new student center will be attached to the north side of Great Hall.

As for the old student center, Birkenholtz said that there has been talk of making BSC into an art building.

“We may move other academic functions in there as well, if space allows,” he said.

Birkenholtz said that the college does has a good start in implementing plans for the new student center, but that its important to remember that it is still very early in the process and that there are still many things to consider.

“It is important to keep an open mind,” said Birkenholtz. “This is an exciting, much needed and very anticipated project for Simpson that is intended to benefit the entire campus.”